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This article was originally published in issue #20
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In an issue with SRV on the cover we make no apologies for offering so many takes on 'a certain guitar design'. This one - the Retro - is from Patrice Vigier, so expect fireworks!
Vigier is now well established as one of the world's top high-end brands, making superb, no compromise, instruments, with many innovative ideas that take guitar design to a new level. I have tried many Vigier guitars and they have all been truly excellent. I put them along with Music Man and PRS as the sort of guitars you could buy without trying one, and just know it will be great.
This Expert Retro 54 is Patrice Vigier's take on a Stratocaster type guitar. I think it has a cool look with the maple neck and I like the blue our sample came in, too, a shade that Vigier calls Normandie blue. You don't want blue? You could also have Normandie red, and Vigier offers a wide range of alternative solid colours and finishes. (Incase you're wondering 'why Normandie?' It's Vigier's way of paying tribute to those who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy during the liberation of France during WW II - Ed).
Picking up the Retro 54, straight away everything is right. The weight is nice and light, it plays perfectly, and the natural acoustic resonance of the guitar is off the scale. If a guitar rings acoustically like this, then it will sound great once amplified. Always try a guitar without plugging it in first. If it rings, you know you have a good one!
A lot of that resonance comes from the fact that Vigier constructs its necks using carbon to reinforce them. Instead of taking wood away and sticking in a metal truss rod, all the mass is kept there by the fact that it is 10% carbon and 90% aged maple. Vigier also age dries its wood naturally for at least three years. This is a company that doesn't 'do' compromises and it shows is one of the most resonant guitars on the market. Even the body finish is allowed five weeks before buffing
Amplified, it sounds fantastic, too. The DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups give a sweet single coil tone that has depth and 'spank' to the sound. Not at all thin sounding but just right, and all the selectable tones are addictive. Probably adding to the equation is the two piece alder body. The whole thing sings in a Strat way, but few actual Stratocasters reach this level of tone.
The trem system is great, too. Instead of rocking on the traditional knife edges, it works on ball bearings that don't wear out and give perfect return to pitch stability. The feel is very positive and light, and the trem arm has a screw in sleeve, much like a Floyd, so no nasty knocks or clunks when a trem arm doesn't fit properly (I hate that). The people behind these details are obviously real guitar players, because the whole thing adds up to a superb instrument. The neck feels great with medium frets and a nice modern radius. No dead spots and every area on the neck allows that resonance to come through. The notes sort of pop out and bloom.
It's true that this degree of quality doesn't come cheap, but I can understand its pricing. You can feel, see and hear where the money has been spent - not just on a corporation's overheads, but on the product in your hands. If anything, I would expect it to cost more money than it does.
This is a great alternative to your average Strat type guitar and really is a very grown-up instrument indeed. If there was something bad to say about it, I would tell you but to be honest, I really can't fault this guitar. As a very long shot, the more traditional purists may not sway from the aesthetic look of the original Fender Strat design, but that, really, is clutching at straws. Vigier guitars have their own look which works well and makes the statement that you are a discerning player. This is a superb guitar. And yes, we have given it four and a half stars - the extra half a star being what we usually give a product that is extra fine value for money. It deserves it.